Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Local History Professor Speaks

Yesterday, in a class on Rome, the topic of discussion was late Roman attitudes towards education (St. Basil, St. Jerome), viz., whether pagan classics were suitable to teach Christian children. I noted that Roman education was essentially private--whether for better or worse--and the "curriculum" was set by parents' expectations and tutors' competence. There was no "state" or "government-mandated" public education (again, for better or worse). I then pointed out that until the 19th century, America too has basically private--often through religious denominations--education. I noted differing views about education elsewhere, e.g., in Islamic countries like Pakistan where State-Religion-Education were of one piece. I brought a copy of the U.S. Constitution and noted that the word "education" is absent. Why? The answers were very illuminating. My brightest student, a classics major, volunteered that the Founders wanted the population, except for a few white males, to be ignorant!!! One of my quietest students, who hadn't said anything all semester, ventured that the Founders didn't want to subsidize a national system of education that would impose one philosophy of life. The first student was terribly wrong:  What struck me from other comments was that these students, mostly seniors, had no idea what was in the Constitution or its intent to promote ordered liberty. No wonder that polls show 53% of Democrats think the Constitution is irrelevant today and that they have a favorable view of Socialism.

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